The First Months of Occupation
Ghetto border from the Old Market
German troops entered the city on September 8, 1939. Since the very beginning of the occupation, the Łódź Jews suffered severe repression. It took various, sometimes very brutal forms: from forcing them to hard, degrading cleaning work, through robberies and assaults, to murders. This was sanctioned by the occupational law adopted by the German authorities through directives. Insults concerned nearly all areas of life. In particular, Jewish possessions were frequently plundered, which took the form of thefts and mugging for which uniformed and local Nazi supporters were responsible, and formal actions, such as taking over shops, workshops, and whole industrial plants. Together with repressive legislation that forbade to own larger amounts of money, prevented access to deposits and bank accounts, banned the trade in goods of certain types, and ordered all Jewish employees to be fired, this deprived most Łódź Jews of any income. Apart from the economic area, restrictions affected religious and cultural spheres: synagogues were closed and then destroyed, all celebrations were banned, and all social, political, professional, and cultural organisations were dissolved. Jews were forbidden to go down the main street of the city – Piotrkowska Street, enter Łódź parks, use means of public transport, and leave Łódź. Representatives of the intelligentsia and eminent members of the Jewish community that stayed in Łódź were put in hastily established prisons from which many of them were taken to nearby forests and shot as part of the so-called Intelligenzaktion.
In the middle of November 1939, all Jews were forced to wear yellow bands around their right arms. Later, the bands were replaced with a yellow Star of David, the so-called patch, worn on the chest and on the back. Dawid Sierakowiak, a teenager keeping a diary, wrote: “We are returning to the Middle Ages. The yellow patch once again becomes part of Jewish dress.” In the following weeks, an order was also issued to mark all flats and houses belonging to Jews with the same symbol. There were strict sanctions for failing to follow this order.